Max Jaffa

A classically trained English violinist who enjoyed a long and successful career in British popular music.
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Artist Biography

b. 28 December 1911, London, England, d. 30 July 1991, London, England. A classically trained violinist, inspired and influenced by Jascha Heifetz and Fritz Kreisler, who had a long and successful career in British popular music. Born into a non-musical family, Jaffa’s father presented him with a violin on his sixth birthday. At the age of nine he made his first concert appearance at the Palace Pier Theatre, Brighton, and later studied at the Guildhall School Of Music. To supplement his income, he formed a trio to play for silent movies. When he was 17 years old, he worked at the Piccadilly Hotel in London and, during a five-year stay, formed his Salon Orchestra, which made its first broadcast from the hotel in August 1929. Later that year he was released for a season to become the youngest ever leader of the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and went on a concert tour of Scotland with Joseph Hislop.

During World War II, Jaffa flew with the Royal Air Force, and afterwards found that he was physically unable to play the violin. After reverting to the basics of the instrument, assisted by one of his original tutors, he joined the Mantovani Orchestra, eventually becoming its leader, and played on the original version of the 1951 multi-million-selling record of ‘Charmaine’. Around this time, Jaffa’s meeting with cellist Reginald Kilbey and pianist Jack Byfield led to the formation of the renowned Max Jaffa Trio. It was a professional association lasting over 30 years. For 27 years, from 1959-86, Max Jaffa served as musical director at Scarborough in Yorkshire, conducting the Spa Orchestra in two concerts a day, during the 17-week summer season. His wife, contralto Jean Grayston, was a regular guest artist. A prolific broadcaster, his radio and television programmes included Music At Ten, Music For Your Pleasure, Melody On Strings, Max Jaffa Trio, and the long-running, affectionately remembered Grand Hotel, in which he presided over the Palm Court Orchestra. A film he made in 1959, entitled Music With Max Jaffa, was billed intriguingly as: ‘Musical: Violin, Songs and Sword Dance ’. His honours included the Gold Medal and Principal’s Prize from the Guildhall School of Music, the Freedom of Scarborough, and the OBE, which he received in 1982 for services to music. After a career lasting 70 years, he announced his retirement in 1990. A humorous and enlightened attitude to life and music was reflected in his autobiography, which was published in 1991.